What is a Deposition?
A deposition is similar to a witness testifying in court, except that it occurs in an out-of-court setting. A witness at a deposition is referred to as the “deponent.” A deposition usually takes place in a lawyer’s conference room, although I’ve personally been involved in depositions that took place in homes, hospitals, and even over the telephone.
It’s a chance for lawyers to ask questions and get answers from a witness under oath. A court reporter is present to make a record of the questions and answers, which is then usually reduced to writing in what’s called a “transcript” of the proceedings. Sometimes a videographer will also be there to film the testimony.
Depositions are part of the “discovery” process of a lawsuit. Each side has the right to discover information about the other side’s allegations. This is accomplished by things like written questions, production of documents, inspection of property, independent medical exams, and depositions. Rule 30 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure governs depositions in Tennessee.
Do we really need a deposition? Isn’t it expensive?
A deposition can be expensive, but it’s perhaps the most useful tool in a lawyer’s discovery toolbox because it allows for real-time follow-up and feedback. One of the most useful benefits is that, with some exceptions, it can be used to preserve and/or “lock in” crucial testimony. A transcript can be admitted as evidence in court if the witness later becomes unavailable for trial (e.g. death, incapacity, outside the reach of court’s jurisdiction, immune from subpoena, etc.). A transcript can also be used to impeach and cross-examine a witness who shows up for trial with a different version of events.
Depositions are Serious Business.
A deposition is a very serious matter with serious potential consequences. Remember, the transcript may be used in court. If you are the deponent, you should treat your deposition as if your testimony is occurring right in the courtroom in front of the judge and jury.
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Blog Post by: Lang Wiseman